Programming Languages on OpenVMS

Looking at OpenVMS administration, and investigating the possible languages to use on OpenVMS, there are many options – some supported by HP and some community open source options.

One of the first options is Perl; apparently Perl was originally designed as a way to write scripts that worked under UNIX and VMS both. Bernd Ulmann wrote an article for OpenVMS Technical Journal 13 about Perl on OpenVMS and gave a presentation on it in the spring of 2009 at an HP Connect OpenVMS Meeting (English translation) in Germany.

The HP version of Perl appears to be tied to the Secure Web Server (SWS) but it can stand alone.

Another language that is growing on OpenVMS is Java. Jean-Yves Bourles and Thierry Uso wrote on Java and OpenVMS in OpenVMS Technical Journal 10. Netbeans is available from HP to facilitate Java development on OpenVMS.

With Java available, that opens up the possibility of perhaps using a language that runs on the Java JVM as well. That brings to mind JRuby, Jython, Groovy, Scala, and Clojure. Information on most of these is rather scarce unfortunately; only Scala and JRuby have ports (both by the aforementioned Thierry Uso). Personally, these two are the most interesting to me; Scala has unmatched integration with Java itself as well.

Python is also available. Python seems to be the new administration tool of choice; at least, Red Hat seems to think that way.

As part of the Secure Web Server (SWS), you also get HP’s version of PHP. However, this does not seem to be a separate product as Perl is, and there is no description of using PHP as a scripting language (which you can do by running PHP against a file from the command line).

Lua is graciously made available for OpenVMS by our friends over at Hoffman Labs. Lua is a fantastic scripting language that doesn’t get the cover that it deserves.

Lastly, Tcl/Tk is available as well.

So which do I recommend? Well, Perl, PHP, and Java are all HP supported products, so one could start there. With Java, I see Scala and JRuby being fantastic languages as well, although they are not supported by HP. Lua is also a favorite of mine; an OpenVMS version is wonderful; however, Lua is not as widely available for other platforms as is Perl and Java.

I should mention that PL/I is still active on OpenVMS; it is commercially sold and supported by Kednos. PL/I was an interesting language, but it doesn’t have modern capabilities.

At the German site there is also a big list of OpenVMS ports (including languages).

Are you ready for programming on OpenVMS? I am!

10 Programming Languages Worth Checking Out [from H3RALD]

This article (10 Programming Languages Worth Checking Out) over at H3RALD is very interesting. If you seek out new things to learn, and new computer languages to program in, then this article should pique your interest.

The languages listed are: Haskell, Erlang, Io, PLT Scheme, Clojure, Squeak, OCaml, Factor, Lua, and Scala. There is also a To get you started… section for each language with pertinent links for learning more.

I was surprised to find that at least six of these languages have significantly caught my attention already. I find Lua to be absolutely beautiful and a delight to program in (my PalmPilot has PLua loaded all the time). Squeak is just Smalltalk-80 kept alive – and Smalltalk has been of interest to me ever since I learned of it decades ago. Haskell and Erlang are interesting, too – but I’ve not followed that up with learning yet.

Now Scala and Clojure have my attention. Unfortunately, Clojure almost seems like it takes the simplicity of Common Lisp and trades it in for complexity. I don’t find the “complaints” against Common Lisp to be valid; I’d rather see Common Lisp implemented in Java than a Lisp-derivative.

I expect I’ll be talking more about Scala as time goes on – this language has caught me good.

Automation: Live and Breathe It!

Automation should be second nature to a system administrator. I have a maxim that I try to live by: “If I can tell someone how to do it, I can tell a computer how to do it.” I put this into practice by automating everything I can.

Why is this so important? If you craft every machine by hand, then you wind up with a number of problems (or possible problems):

  • Each machine is independently configured, and each machine is different. No two machines will be alike – which means instead of one machine replicated one hundred times, you’ll have one hundred different machines.
  • Problems that exist on a machine may or may not exist on another – and may or may not get fixed when found. If machine alpha has a problem, how do you know that machine beta or machine charlie don’t have the same problem? How do you know the problem is fixed on all machines? You don’t.
  • How do you know all required software is present? You don’t. It might be present on machine alpha, but not machine delta.
  • How do you know all software is up to date and at the same revision? You don’t. If machine alpha and machine delta both have a particular software, maybe it is the same one and maybe not.
  • How do you know if you’ve configured two machines in the same way? Maybe you missed a particular configuration requirement – which will only show up later as a problem or service outage.
  • If you have to recover any given machine, how do you know it will be recovered to the same configuration? Often, the configuration may or may not be backed up – so then it has to be recreated. Are the same packages installed? The same set of software? The same patches?

To avoid these problems and more, automation should be a part of every system wherever possible. Automate the configuration – setup – reconfiguration – backups – and so forth. Don’t miss anything – and if you did, add the automation as soon as you know about it.

Things like Perl, TCL, Lua, and Ruby are all good for this.

Other tools that help tremendously in this area are automatic installation tools: Red Hat Kickstart (as well as Spacewalk), Solaris Jumpstart, HP’s Ignite-UX, and OpenSUSE Autoyast. These systems can, if configured properly, automatically install a machine unattended.

When combined with a tool like cfengine or puppet, these automatic installations can be nearly complete – from turning the system on for the very first time to full operation without operator intervention. This automated install not only improves reliability, but can free up hours of your time.